This guide acknowledges common privacy concerns that make it difficult for the government to obtain data and details six strategies prosecutors can use to confront objections from electronic service providers, including educating judges, service providers, and investigators; customizing boilerplates; knowing what to ask for; and budget planning. The resource is a project of the Trauma-Informed Prosecutor Project (TIPP), a program of Zero Abuse Project.
A search warrant is a court order: once a judge signs it, the person or entity it's served on is legally bound to comply. However, when dealing with Big Tech, sometimes even a judge's signature isn't compelling enough to force action. The parameters of data privacy are a topic of hot debate. That debate often centers around how provider-held data has been commoditized—routinely collected, bundled, and sold in ways that consumers don't fully understand. But this data trove has also become central to diverse criminal investigations. As a result, law enforcement's demand and reliance on electronic service providers is increasing, while providers' internal reviews and resulting back-and-forth correspondence can delay or stymie investigations. With forethought and careful planning, however, prosecutors can head off this pushback and more promptly procure the digital evidence necessary to prove their case.